The White Rabbit: A Vintage-Chic Boutique
Angie Mathey and Lindsay Liebherr, the mother-daughter duo behind The White Rabbit, believe a home should be imperfect, inviting and full of memories. They opened their boutique to help families decorate their homes with things they love, mixing new and old to create an individual style.
The St. Louis-based boutique specializes in painted vintage furniture, but it carries everything from wall decor, florals and lighting to baby gifts and jewelry. Mathey reveals that in 2019, the store will feature pops of coral and terracotta colors, as well as green. “This year, green is supposed to be the biggest influence at The Atlanta International Gifts & Home Furnishings Market, where we go to buy products twice a year,” she says. She also intends to create a botanical section in the store, incorporating faux greenery and a myriad of pots and planters.
Mathey will have to rely more heavily on vintage furniture to stock the shop, as well. Due to rising import taxes, vendors have already told her that they will be increasing their prices. “We’ve always tried to keep things affordable,” she says. “We don’t want to alienate customers with outrageously high price tags.” Since she can source vintage furniture right here in the United States—with the help of her traveling buyer, her secret weapon, Tracie—and it will be one of a kind rather than the same stuff everyone else is selling, this strategy makes business sense.
In 2008, the previous location of The White Rabbit flooded after Hurricane Ike blew through town. Mathey recalls that there was 3 feet of water on the showroom floor. “We lost everything,” she says. They had to take out a small business loan, find a new location (at 9030 Manchester Road) and start over with only a few pieces of furniture. Ten years later, business couldn’t be better. “We have grown at least 10 percent every year since we’ve been here,” Mathey says.
Mathey’s background in refinishing vintage furniture is extensive. When she got married in 1974, she and her husband didn’t have a lot of money, so they started buying cheap antique furniture and learned how to strip paint off the old pieces and refinish them. “We were able to furnish our first house that way,” she says. Ever since, she’s been utilizing the acquired knowledge and further developing her skill set.
Around the time Rachel Ashwell became known for her shabby chic style, Mathey started painting and distressing her furniture, too. “All of a sudden, imperfection was OK; it was even sought after,” says Mathey. “Personally, I fell in love with the look because it’s so easy to live with. You don’t have to worry about something getting scratched or chipped; most pieces are well-worn and you’re just adding to their story.”
Liebherr worked part-time for the business while she was finishing her degree in psychology and sociology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and she came on board full-time after she graduated. Over the years, she and her mother have fine-tuned The White Rabbit’s look. Today, Mathey would describe the store as “vintage modern” and “a combination of French and farmhouse,” but the painted pieces are what really make the shop stand out.
“Painting a piece can bring new life to it,” explains Mathey. “I don’t know if you’re familiar with French provincial furniture, but it often comes in a yellowish color. Presented like this, people will walk right past it without a second glance, but with a new coat of paint, it becomes the most eye-catching, desired piece in the store.”
Local artistry also has a place at The White Rabbit. “Currently, we sell candles by Tru Candle Studio; prints, cards and other art by Emily Stahl Design Co.; and the tea towels by a good friend of mine are one of our biggest sellers, believe it or not,” says Mathey.
Mathey also relies on a woodworker based in Springfield, Ill., who builds farmhouse tables, benches, bookcases, sideboards, media cabinets and more for her. “He uses all reclaimed wood and can build any crazy idea that pops into my head. He’s so awesome!” Mathey says.
At The White Rabbit, rather than focusing on national trends, Mathey and Liebherr prefer to talk to their customers, to understand what the people of St. Louis are looking for and, every once in a while, simply buy what they like. This tactic allows them to continue to grow their business and do what they love, while offering a fresh pair of eyes and new design to the homes of families throughout the area.
Images courtesy of The White Rabbit.